By Tim Farley, The City Sentinel
A high-energy, fast-paced sport known as Futsal will hold its national championship in Oklahoma City during late February and bring with it an estimated $2.5 million in economic impact.
Rob Andrews, president of United Futsal, made a presentation to the Oklahoma City Council Tuesday (October 12) about the sport, the upcoming event and the potential for future events to be held here. Andrews told the council he expects about 128 teams to participate in the national championship set for Feb. 25-27 at the Oklahoma City Convention Center.
More than 4,000 people, about 90% from outside Oklahoma City, are expected to attend the three-day event, Andrews said. Those out-of-town guests will generate about 3,000 hotel nights, Andrews said.
Oklahoma City was selected for the national championship because of its central location, world-class airport, convenient quality hotels, restaurants and fun activities in Bricktown and the city’s proven ability to host major national events such as the NCAA’s Women’s Softball College World Series.
“More and more, we’re seeing Oklahoma City become an attraction for sports tourism,” Mayor David Holt said.
“When you invest money like we have (with MAPS), you eventually see results. There are millions of dollars out there for youth sports events, and even adult sports events.”
A “special enthusiasm” for Futsal by some Oklahoma City residents helped bring the February national championship to downtown, Holt said.
“I think there will be more opportunities like this,” he said. “People come here and spend money on hotels, food and gasoline and it doesn’t cost the city anything. It’s a great thing and reflects how our economy is growing and is becoming diversified. It’s neat to be a destination (point).”
(Editor’s note: Futsal is similar to indoor soccer but not identical in its rules and game tempo.)
Andrews was also encouraged by Oklahoma City’s potential to host future outdoor and indoor sporting events for Futsal, USA Volleyball, pickleball, USA Ultimate Frisbee, USA Lacrosse and AAU basketball.
Futsal is a sport that combines soccer, basketball and hockey skills. It’s played with four field players and a goalkeeper. The games are played on a hard, smooth surface with teams taking a shot about every 10 seconds, Andrews told the council.
Each team typically takes about 50 shots per game and the rules are almost identical to soccer. Nearly all soccer superstars credit Futsal for their development, Andrews said. Futsal is present in all 209 FIFA member associations.